Leo Stepanovich Demidov, a war hero and rising star in the MGB--Stalin’s state security force, is proud of his country. Yes, he has to do some unpleasant things, such as supervising the torture of suspected persons—and there are many suspected persons, the list growing daily. But all of that is surely necessary to protect post-World War II’s Russia in Tom Rob Smith’s Child 44.
What I’m about to say will be blasphemy to many of you. I DIDN’T like…no, actually, I hated Elizabeth’s Gilbert best-selling book Eat, Pray, Love. BUT, before you vow to never again read one of my blog posts, let me quickly assure you that I wholeheartedly embrace her latest epic offering, The Signature of All Things.
Englishman Henry Whittaker was born into a dirt-poor family. By combining an innate entrepreneurial spirit with an equally impressive knowledge of botany, Whittaker succeeds in amassing an early fortune. He and his Dutch-born wife move to Philadelphia where they build an opulent estate, and Henry assumes a position as one of America’s richest men.
Lady Jacquetta inherited the gift of Second Sight from a long-ago river goddess, or so the family legend went. What is obviously true is that she does get glimpses of what will happen to her and those around her. For example, Joan, the innocent, brave peasant girl her family has held captive to trade to the English, is almost certainly doomed. As for her own lot, the beautiful teenager who will be called The Lady of the Rivers has captured the attention of a powerful man twice her age and in time she will be his—but not as she imagines.
There are graphic novels that literally paint then print images onto the page. The Brother Athelstan books are another kind of graphic novel. They have a very visual feel to them, only it’s done with words. Some medieval mysteries are as stuffy as a centuries-old cupboard. P.C. Doherty’s The Nightingale Gallery isn’t like that. Its characters breathe and move and love and murder with a striking vivacity.
“We laugh and we cry.”
In Tamar Myers’ The Girl Who Married an Eagle, there is a lot of both.
Julia Elaine Newton has come all the way from Ohio to the Belgian Congo to save souls and teach English to young girls who are runaway child brides. She’s really quite pleased with herself and thinks she knows what she’s doing. It’s 1959, and her spotless cotton circle skirt is just the thing to wear in Africa, comfortable and fresh, or it is until it becomes blood-soaked while she tends a future student who has been attacked by hyenas. Exquisite, brilliant, ten-year-old Buakane has run away on her marriage night from Chief Eagle, a man nearly four times her age. She is his 23rd wife.
In 1760s Boston, there is trouble brewing, and it’s not just the upcoming tea party. A young and beautiful girl from a wealthy family has been murdered mysteriously. It isn’t only a mystery as to who killed her and why—the bigger mystery is how. There’s not a mark on her body. It seems as though it was done by magic, and, in D.B. Jackson’s Thieftaker world, magic is a definite possibility.
And the Mountains Echoed, by Khaled Hosseini, begins rather simply with a father telling a fairy tale. It’s 1952. Saboor and his two children, sturdy Adbullah and his tiny sister Pari, are walking for days, with only a small wagon and a little food, to the great city of Kabul. Saboor tells them he is looking for work, and they believe him—why should they not? His hands are broken and calloused, his back stooped with constant labor. He is a caring father, and he is a wonderful storyteller. Around the fire that night, they realize that Saboor has never told them this particular story, one full of grief and love—the last story he will ever tell them.
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The Sandalwood Tree by Elle Newmark: "In 1947, American historian and veteran of WWII, Martin Mitchell, wins a Fulbright Fellowship to document the end of British rule in India. His wife, Evie, convinces him to take her and their young son along, hoping a shared adventure will mend their marriage. Martin and Evie find themselves stranded in a colonial bungalow in the Himalayas due to violence. In the house Evie discovers a packet of old letters, which tell a strange and compelling story of love and war involving two young Englishwomen who lived in the same house in 1857. Drawn to their story, Evie embarks on a mission to piece together her Victorian mystery. "
If you enjoyed The Sandalwood Tree, here are some other titles you may enjoy:
Beautiful Ruins by Jess Walter
The story begins in 1962. On the sun-drenched Italian coastline, a young innkeeper looks out over the incandescent waters of the Ligurian Sea and spies a tall, thin woman approaching him on a boat. She is an actress, an American starlet, and she is dying. The story begins again today when an elderly Italian man shows up on a movie studios back lot, searching for the mysterious woman he last saw at his hotel decades earlier.
East of the Sun by Julia Gregson
Autumn 1928. Three young women are on their way to India, each with a new life in mind. Rose, a beautiful but nai?ve bride-to-be, is anxious about leaving her family and marrying a man she hardly knows. Victoria, her bridesmaid couldn't be happier to get away from her overbearing mother, and is determined to find herself a husband. And Viva, their inexperienced chaperone, is in search of the India of her childhood, ghosts from the past and freedom. Each of them has their own reason for leaving their homeland but the hopes and secrets they carry can do little to prepare them for what lies ahead in India.
In Alice Hoffman’s The Red Garden, Hallie Brady arrives in the wilderness near Hightop Mountain in 1750. Nobody white had settled this part of Massachusetts before, and the native people who camped nearby vowed that no man would find happiness west of the mountain. Teenaged, English-born Hallie comes with her not-good-for-much husband and a couple of other families he has duped into following him in circles for days before winding up in the shadow of the mountain just as the November snows are settling in.
Ragtime, by E. L. Doctorow, swirls through 1906 America with a breakneck stream-of-consciousness pace more frenetic than most historical fiction. A densely-constructed ensemble piece that alternates between fictional and real life figures of the age, the thoroughly modern novel amazed critics and readers alike upon its publication in 1975.